By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Dec 6: The land near Kampung Seroban in Serian acquired for the implementation of SMK Serian No. 2 project over a decade ago has been abandoned following discovery of a stream underneath by the Department of Mineral and Geoscience Malaysia.
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong explained that the school project was delayed due to the high risk factor of the site and not because the federal government had decided not to build the school.
“The 40-acre or so land was acquired in 2005 in which compensation of some RM1.4 million has been paid and SMK Serian No. 2 was supposed to be built there.
“Unfortunately, investigations by Geoscience had found that there was a stream underneath the land. So it has to be abandoned, otherwise it would have been built long time ago,” he told reporters today.
Manyin was met after the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signing and exchanged of documents ceremony between Sarawak Research Development Council (SRDC) and Curtin Biovalley Sdn Bhd and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
He pointed out that the land now belonged to the state government as it had not been fully transferred to the federal government.
“So, if we want to give back (the land) to the former landowners, as appealed by the opposition, according to the law, if to offer to the public, the owners will be given the priority but they will have to pay for it at least as per acquired price. It cannot be free.
“If they (former landowners) don’t want then we can offer to others who may be interested. It is a good piece of land for agriculture,” he added.
Manyin was referring to recent news reports in which DAP Serian branch chief Edward Andrew Luwak had helped former landowners voice out their intention to claim back their land.
About 20 former landowners of Kampung Seroban had urged the government to return their land which they have surrendered as the site of SMK Serian No. 2.
Edward highlighted that the village folks had made a firm stand that the surrendering of their land was for the construction of SMK Serian No. 2 as they were delighted that a secondary school would be built in the vicinity of their village.
Thus, he said the landowners willingly surrendered their land even on payment of compensation which could be considered as ‘token’ compensations.
Edward added that two previous land owners, Jerome Kakit and Bonny Mayon, divulged that they were paid compensation of around RM15,000 per acre, while Jean Maria admitted to receive around RM20,000 for her one-acre plot.
The project, planned during the previous federal administration under Barisan Nasional (BN), was approved in Aug 23, 2008.
“So, we are currently in the process of identifying a new site because that site cannot be used because there is a stream underneath and it is too risky. We have tried to apply a new site but no response yet so far,” he informed.
The proposed new school would have 36 classrooms, boarding houses for 1,000 students and also teachers’ quarters. —DayakDaily